His day job may see him working on the training field with young rugby players, but Participation Officer Tom Sloane has been spending time in the thick of the action with the senior Ospreys team.
The 24-year old is an integral part of the WRU/Ospreys community rugby team based at Llandarcy from Monday to Friday, but he has been making an impression at the weekends as a loose head prop with Swansea in the Premiership this season, despite the All Whites’ trouble at the wrong end of the table.
Having caught the eye of the Ospreys coaches, Sloane was invited in to spend some time training with the first team squad last week, where Steve Tandy and Chris Gibbes have been able to have a closer look at him.
It’s been a strange experience for someone used to be around the environment in a totally different context, but Sloane says the welcome he has received settled any nerves he may have had.
“I’ve really enjoyed the experience” he said.
“I think it makes it a lot easier that I already know the group. It makes it easier to fit in, and to get advice off the boys. I can’t believe how open everyone has been with me, how helpful they’ve been with giving me advice. The likes of Duncan Jones, someone I always looked up to when I was growing up and still do now, has been fantastic helping me when we’ve been doing scrummaging, it’s been fantastic.
“I still have my coaching head on, even when I’m out there in the middle of it, and I try to look at things a little bit differently maybe, but the depth of technical stuff that goes into it at this level, and the analysis stuff, is a completely different level to what I’m used to.”
Andy Lloyd, Rugby Operations Manager at the Ospreys, said that Sloane had earned the opportunity to work with the senior players and coaches:
“His form with Swansea this season has been good, which is why he was invited in to spend the week working with the group. With no fixture, there was a different focus to training and it allowed Steve and Chris to take a good look at Tom within the senior group.
“Within the squad there are a number of players who didn’t come to us through the usual development route, individuals like Scott Baldwin and Sam Lewis who impressed in the Premiership, going on to earn an Ospreys contract that way. We are always looking, watching to see what players are doing well, and if someone impresses then they will get a chance like Tom has.
“He’s a good character, someone we know very well, who is a familiar face around Llandarcy. It’s been a good experience for him, he’s fitted in well and has shown what he is capable of over the course of the week.”
Sloane was back in the white of Swansea on Saturday, and as he reflected on the experience and what he has learned over the course of the week, he said that he will benefit from it both as a player and in his role as Participation Officer.
“I’ve been keeping my head down, playing with the Whites, and I had a good game, man of the match, against Llanelli a few weeks back when the coaches were watching. They had a chat with me, told me they were impressed and they wanted to see a bit more of me and here I am.
“It’s always daunting doing fitness testing, so it was a great day to pick for my first one with the group. Yo-yo testing in the sweat box with the sun shining, thankfully I managed to get through it with a decent score so I didn’t embarrass myself on the first day.
“The whole week was just about giving it the best I can, taking the opportunity to show what I can do and to use the experience to learn the tricks of the trade from the best around. I’m really grateful to everyone at the Ospreys for giving me this opportunity.
“Whatever happens off the back of it, I’ve enjoyed it and I’ve picked up so much that I can take away with me which will benefit me in the Premiership and in my day-to-day job, when I’m back coaching.”